November 26, 2021

Town of Dryden looks to sell historic span, build new

Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

One car waits for another Monday at the Freese Road bridge in Dryden. Calls have been made to preserve the historic bridge, built in 1890, perhaps by removing it and reassembling it at a museum.

DRYDEN — The town of Dryden is looking for buyers for the Freese Road bridge in the hamlet of Varna, who will take the bridge and preserve it so a new bridge can be put in its place.

“I reached out to a company in the Midwest this week, that may be interested in taking ownership of the bridge so it can be restored, re-sold and relocated elsewhere, and we hope to hear from others,” said Dan Lamb, the deputy town supervisor, in an email. “Apparently, there is a market for these bridges on private property, golf clubs or wealthy estates.”

The almost 140-year-old bridge has been yellow-flagged by the state for structural deficiencies.

It was built in 1882 by the Groton Bridge Co. of Groton, is one of two two-span, pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridges left in America.

So the town is looking to sell the bridge for $1 after hearing back from the Federal Highway Administration on the town preliminary design, which looked to use the façade of the old bridge on the new bridge.

“FHWA has asked that we try to find a new location for the old bridge so it can remain intact and its historic value preserved,” Lamb said.

The town had pitched a plan to replace the bridge with a larger, two-lane bridge.

Instead, the town will get a single lane truss-style bridge with traffic signaling required by the state Department of Transportation to prevent head-on collisions. It’s not the bridge the town was originally seeking, though. In 2019, the town was pushing back against the state, which denied its plan for a two lane bridge.

The town would still be able to use the façade if the town cannot sell the bridge and relocate it.

“We are also waiting to hear back from state and federal agencies about financial assistance for relocating the bridge,” Lamb said.

Dryden residents like David Weinstein want to see the historic parts of the bridge, like the trusses, atop the new bridge.

“Over 2,000 vehicles pass over the bridge daily, not to mention large numbers of pedestrians since the bridge is traversed by the heavily used Cayuga Trail,” Weinstein said. “With the historic trusses in easy view on the new bridge, all of these people would have a continual reminder of the history and ingenuity that was built here, adding a great deal of character to the hamlet of Varna.”

Weinstein said the substructure of the bridge does have some historic ironwork, but many of the elements have been worked on, making it less historic than the trusses.

No matter what happens with Freese Road bridge, Weinstein just wants to make sure the town avoids the same fate of Red Mill bridge, which crossed Fall Creek between Freeville and Malloryville.

“It sits rusting away behind the town’s highway barn,” Weinstein said. “Little effort has gone into finding a home for this bridge, and, to my knowledge, no funds have been allocated to arrest its deterioration. It is a case of out of site, out of mind, unlikely to result in the bridge’s reuse.”